Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

By Donna Westfall – November 28, 2016  – When you’re born and raised in Los Angeles, it’s not uncommon to meet, go to school with and know movie and TV stars.  But, It’s not often you answer a knock at  your front door and see in front of you none other than Jane Fonda.  She wasn’t there to promote a movie or a work-out video.  She was there campaigning for then husband, Tom Hayden.


While some call him full of hot air, self-centered and a compromiser, the man made his mark on history.  It was the civil right era.  It was the protest against the war in Vietnam. He definitely played a part in changing the direction of  our country.

His start in activism  began in the 1950’s at the University of Michigan as a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society. Hayden wrote the Port Huron Statement, the group’s manifesto, in which he railed against U.S. foreign policy and politics, racial discrimination, and business, while advocating for civil disobedience and political reform.

In the 1960’s he traveled with the Freedom Riders questioning the legality of segregation on buses.  When he experienced people willing to die for a cause, it changed his life. According to Michael Finnegan’s article in the LA Times, Hayden spoke with ex-wife Jane Fonda, the day before his death about the Freedom Ride.

During the mid 1960’s, he traveled to North Vietnam to tour villages and meet with an American POW. While I don’t agree with or admire his decision to travel through North Vietnam,  it was no surprise then that at the 1968 Democratic National Convention held in Chicago, Illinois, he and other activists rose up to protest Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam War policies.  It was there that 8 organizers were arrested and tried, later to be labeled The Chicago Seven when Bobby Seale was severed from their trial.

Conspiracy charges for inciting a riot brought against Hayden and four others had them sentenced to five years in prison and fines of $5,000 each. Upon appeal, the convictions were reversed.

During the 1970’s, and after the Vietnam war ended, Hayden entered politics.  He taught at many colleges and universities including UCLA and Harvard. He was a prolific writer, in addition to being a member of the editorial board and a columnist for The Nation magazine, Hayden was regularly published in the New York Times, Guardian, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Denver Post, Harvard International Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, Huffington Post and other weekly alternatives. His books covered the gamut of his life experience; his last book to be published in March, 2017.

Tom Hayden spent 18 years in the California legislature, a staunch democrat and supporter of Bernie Sanders for President until he switched his support to Hillary Clinton.

Married three times.  He and second wife, Jane Fonda, had one son, Troy Garity who played his father in the film, Steal This Movie. Reportedly, after their divorce he received an estimated $30 million under California’s joint property law in the couple’s 1990 divorce settlement. He is also survived by his third wife, Barbara Williams and their adopted son, Liam.

12/11/39 to 10/23/16  – Rest in Peace, Tom Hayden.  Radical activist turned politician. He fought the good fight. He believed in causes and went to the beat of his own drum. His influence will be felt for many years to come.

Considered one of the most important radicals during the 1960’s. Of course, he was on the FBI’s list and you gotta wonder about someone that had 22,000 pages stacked 5 feet high during the 60’s and 70’s worth of files at the FBI… well he can’t be all that bad.

In fact, he organized and changed people and their lives by becoming involved in marches and demonstrations and politics.

Hayden became romantically involved with movie star Jane Fonda, who accompanied Hayden on a trip to North Vietnam in 1972 (he had previously visited the country in 1965). The trip made Fonda infamous as “Hanoi Jane” and she is still hated and reviled by many Vietnam veterans.  According to, Tom Hayden was reportedly worth only $50,000 when he married Fonda in 1973. Hayden received an estimated $30 million under California’s joint property law in the couple’s 1990 divorce settlement. That certainly set him up to finance a political campaign.

“Father to the largest mass protests in American history”, per Nicholas Lemann as national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly


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